Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Farewell for Neeme Jarvi: William Grant Still's “Afro-American Symphony”

Farewell for Neeme Jarvi by Robert M. Murray

“I close with a review of one of the performances of that tour

Damn Good Yankees
The Guardian, Tuesday 5, 1998
Arts Reviews

Inspired... Neeme Järvi conducts the Detroit Symphony Orchestra
We expect first division American orchestras to be good, says Edward Greenfield, but the second division can be just as dazzling.
As recordings have regularly shown, the quality of American orchestra can be dauntingly fine, not just the old top five—New York, Boston, Philadelphia-Cleveland and Chicago—but those in the second division. On this showing it would be hard to exaggerate the achievement of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, whose tour of Britain culminated in a Barbican concert not just of dazzling brilliance—we expect that of American players, but of stirring warmth too.
The program could hardly have been more taxing, a sequence of orchestral showpieces American repertory in the first half, Prokofiev and Ravel in the second. If dazzle was what we expected and got, it was the inspired conducting of Neeme Järvi that set the performances on a higher plane. He did not just bring out pin-point ensemble, but persuaded the players to perform with a flexible expressiveness akin to what one expects of a solo player, not a whole orchestra geared to precision. That came out forcibly in the rarity in the program, the Afro-American Symphony of William Grant Still, the first black composer to storm the symphonic citadel in America. This is an amiable piece of four ripely lyrical movements, episodic rather than symphonic in structure. With the main blues theme smoothly persuasive, this performance totally disarmed criticism.

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